CHICAGO - Dave Jageler has spent the last 11 1/2 years broadcasting Nationals games in vivid detail on the radio, so there is a natural comfort level he has found along the way. A comfort level he hasn’t fully felt over the last week as he has continued to broadcast Nationals games, just in the entirely different medium of television.
“I’ve done over 2,000 games on the radio,” Jageler said. “You just do it. It’s your routine. It’s every day. And this is so different because I’ve done it so little.”
Kevin Brown has spent the last 6 1/2 years broadcasting baseball games in vivid detail on the radio himself, also leading to a natural comfort level along the way. A comfort level he hasn’t fully felt over the last week as he has broadcast not Syracuse Chiefs minor league games but Nationals major league contests.
“To do Major League Baseball has been the dream for a long time,” Brown said. “Or, I guess I should say one of several dreams. I’d be thrilled doing the NBA. I love doing football. But when you call a big league game at Wrigley Field, in Pittsburgh, in Miami, to me I’ve not felt anything like that. No basketball game I’ve done, no football game I’ve done, nothing has felt like this.”
A week of change on the air comes to an end today, with Jageler calling his final game on MASN before Bob Carpenter returns from a brief vacation, bumping Jageler back to his usual gig on the radio with partner Charlie Slowes. That, in turn, will bump Brown from his temporary gig on the radio this week and send him off into a new chapter of his career covering football and basketball for ESPN.
What an eventful week it’s been for both broadcasters, beginning with Gio Gonzalez’s near no-hitter Monday in Miami. Jageler has been in the booth for the Nationals’ three previous no-no’s, but this was the first time he’d ever found himself doing play-by-play in the ninth inning with that kind of historic moment on the line. Brown, meanwhile, found himself in the booth for the kind of magic moment many announcers wait decades to experience firsthand, this in one of his very first major league games.
“To, in my third big league game, have a no-hitter going into the ninth, with everything going on with Gio in his hometown, and it being José’s (Fernández) birthday ... that would be rejected as a script for being too on the nose,” Brown said. “So that was extraordinary.”
Brown had called two Nationals games earlier this season, both in Pittsburgh, when Slowes was away attending his son’s graduation. It was a nice reward for a guy who spent seven seasons calling Triple-A games in Syracuse, and one he didn’t know if he’d ever get again.
Brown actually called his final game for the Chiefs on Sunday, a pre-planned career change as he takes on a larger role at ESPN. He’s already been named the network’s lead announcer for its weekly high school football broadcast, and more prominent assignments are set to be revealed soon.
Brown had planned to take a couple weeks off after Sunday’s game, attend a college friend’s wedding, then do a West Coast vacation with his girlfriend before beginning his work for ESPN. But then came an unexpected, last-minute offer from the Nationals to call this week’s road trip on the radio while Jageler filled in on TV.
“The timing, it couldn’t have been any more perfect,” he said. “Because, literally, Sunday was it. I was done. And I got the email and did a double-take. It’s one of those you think is a joke at first.”
Brown had never been to Miami before, and he’d never been to Wrigley Field before. Suddenly he found himself in one of the booths hovering above the upper deck, calling a weekend series between two division leaders in front of three consecutive sellout crowds.
“This is manna from heaven for baseball fans,” he said. “This is baseball nirvana here. So walking into this park and sitting in the booth ... and people have told me it’s a cramped booth, it’s really tight, intimate setting, this isn’t modern. It’s like I’m in another world while these comments are circling around me, not quite permeating my brain. Because I’m so awestruck just to be here.”
Jageler has called plenty of games before at Wrigley Field (one of his favorite parks in the majors) and plenty of games as well at Marlins Park (he ranks that one “31 out of 30”). But this was the first time he’d called MLB games on TV since a brief, four-game stint filling in for Carpenter in 2011.
You might not think there’s much difference between calling games on TV and radio, but there most certainly is. On the radio, the announcer must provide every single detail for the listener. On TV, much of it is already visible to the viewer, requiring far fewer descriptions.
How often this week has Jageler had to remind himself not to talk so much?
“All the time,” he said. “All the time. That’s the hardest adjustment. Because it’s OK to have dead space on radio and let the game breathe, but not too much. You’re constantly trying to be descriptive. Well, (on TV) the picture’s in front of everybody. So it’s a case of: ‘Well, do I say the count? Because the count’s on the screen. Do I say the score? ‘Cause the score’s the on the screen.’ So it’s a constant battle between the devil on my shoulder and the angel on my shoulder when I slip back into radio mode. It’s every minute. Which is what makes it challenging. Because it’s not what I’m naturally used to doing.”
Jageler has earned kudos for his play-by-play of Gonzalez’s near no-hitter, of Max Scherzer’s first career home run and of the tense moments so far in this weekend’s series against the Cubs, as well as his rapport with analyst F.P. Santangelo.
“Once the adjustment period ended, the games have gone by very quickly,” he said. “Even if they’ve been slower games, they’ve been moving faster, just because it’s been different. I’m enjoying the experience. It’s been fun. I think I’ve meshed well with F.P. and we’re having a good time.”
Jageler’s favorite moment of the week, though, might well have been the seventh inning stretch Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, when he turned to his left and watched the guy sitting in the seat he usually occupies in the radio booth soaking in the experience.
“When you’re in that broadcast level, everybody in the upper deck turns around and looks in your direction, because they’re all looking into the Cubs’ TV booth for the celebrity who’s singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’” Jageler said. “So it’s kind of a unique thing. Everybody’s looking up at you, and you’re looking down at everybody. And I looked over at (Brown), kind of just watching him take it all in. I’m sure for a guy who’s doing his fifth or sixth big league game, that would be a pretty cool experience to look down at that scene that he’s probably watched on television many times. So I’m very happy he’s getting this opportunity.”
Said Brown: “It’s been one of the most fun weeks of my life, probably professional or personal.”